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Thriving in the Fourth Trimester

Self-care doesn’t stop once the baby is born. It’s equally important for birthing parents to focus on their own needs during the postpartum period. Seun Ross, executive director of health equity at Independence Blue Cross, explains how and why.

Mental Health Matters

Understand postpartum depression (PPD):  “Giving birth is unlike any other experience,” Ross explains. “Your mental and physical health are put to the ultimate test. But for many birthing people, the test doesn’t end there. They may also experience mood swings, anxiety and feelings of sadness. All these things can be symptoms of postpartum depression.”

Anyone can experience PPD, but you may be at increased risk if you or your family has a history of depression, Ross says. “Compassion and open communication are paramount when you suspect a loved one may be battling PPD. Be patient and understanding, but don’t hesitate to reach out to your physician to ensure your loved one is getting the appropriate support and treatment needed.”

Healthy Habits for Birthing Parents & Baby

Nourish your body: When caring for a newborn, sleep is often disrupted, and exhaustion can understandably lead to skipped meals. Breastfeeding burns an extra 500 calories a day—meaning what you put in your body is important for both you and your baby. “For those who choose to breastfeed, they should also avoid alcohol, caffeine, excess sugar and high levels of mercury,” Ross says. “As always, it is important to work with your doctor to find the best solution for your and your baby’s needs.”

With exercise, start slowly. “Working out can be a stress reliever and mental stimulator for many, but it’s worth noting that giving birth is an incredible physical feat,” Ross says. “Take the time you need to heal before feeling pressure to return to working out.”

Getting Help from Your Village

Ask for help: Newborns require constant care, so now is the time to ask for—and accept—help. Loved ones can provide simple support such as meals, laundry, housecleaning and grocery shopping as well as babysitting breaks throughout the day so parents can nap. “A strong support system is not just highly recommended, it’s needed,” Ross says. “Having support allows new families to develop a routine and maintain balance as they grapple with the aftereffects of birth while caring for a newborn.” Partners should also pay attention. “As a partner, being active and available every step of the way is pivotal,” she adds. “Ensure you are caring for your newborn, but also prioritize the well-being of your partner. Chances are they might need a little extra care.”